Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bodega Benegas

On Wednesday I went on a winery tour with my cousin, Verena and her friend Milagros. The winery, Benegas, is one of several located in Mendoza. We chose this winery because a friend of theirs, Tola, takes English speaking tourists on winery tours, and this winery is one of the four stops they make. Not knowing how long it would take to get there, we ended up arriving an hour early. It wasn't hard to keep ourselves entertained. All three of us brought our cameras, and this was probably my favorite picture.


That's Verena taking a self protrait, with Milagros and me sneaking into the background.


The winery is rich in history. The founder, Tiburcio Benegas, began his first winery back in 1883. The original vineyard, named “El Trapiche”, became the largest vineyard in the province. Along with two others (a Chilean and a Californian) Tiburcio is considered to be one of the first pioneers in the wine industry in the Americas. He brought the first French grapevines to the region as well as very advanced technology. Sorry to be so vague, but I don’t know a lot about wine making.


I'm not sure of all the details, but from what I can recall, his family had to sell the winery in the 1970s due to financial hardship. All the vineyards were sold, with the exception of those which were used to create the family line of wines. However, a portion of the original winery, where we took our tour, was reclaimed by the Benegas family in 1998.


Tiburcio’s son, Frederico, took over the production of wine in 1998. Those vineyards the family held onto in the 1970s are still being used to create wine today.


The main building of the winery is one of the few remaing buildings built from adobe, a material no longer allowed for use in construction due to the frequency of earthquakes in this region. Underneath the main building is a stone cave where 270 barrels of wine are stored. There is no thermostat in the cave. Its location so far underground is the ideal temperature for wine, in both winter and summer.



Verena and me in the underground cave.



We sampled three wines. The first was a Chardonnay from the Family Line. The second was a Malbec from the Estate Line. And the third was a Meritage from the Benegas Lynch Line.



So basically: 1. Delicious. 2. Drinkable, and 3. Disgusting.




Me gusta el vino blanco más que el vino tinto.



The tour was a blast. I think I was just very excited to be around non-obnoxious English speakers. There was a couple from Denmark, a couple from Melbourne, and a lone traveler from Alabama. Here's a group shot:



Other things to note:


'Bodega' is Spanish for 'winery'.


And aside from making award winning wines, the Benegas family also has one of the largest collections of ponchos in the world.

Thankfully this was a wine tour, and not a poncho tour.



Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ugly Americans

Last night I had the unfortunate pleasure of meeting some Americans. Relocated from New Jersey, the family of six have been living in Mendoza for 16 months. All four of the children have learned Spanish while in school. What struck me as odd was that the mother, who after being here for quite some time, still does not know Spanish. She was quick to point out that she does in fact know how to order a beer. That’s just full of class.


She seemed so unapologetic about it with such an awful attitude about everything. Be it schools, restaurants, or grocery stores, she still could not accept how life is different here. Well, of course it is. You’re in another country. If you wanted everything to be the same as it was in the US you should have just stayed there. But running your mouth about how life is so much better in the States gives people the wrong impression about Americans. I mean come on. You're in a foreign country. Maybe you should try learning the language and embracing how people live in another part of the world.


When I told her I was going to Chile in a few weeks, she apparently believed it was her duty to provide me with some helpful bits of information. Before I could tell her that I’ve been there before she said things like:


-You can eat at a Ruby Tuesdays in Santiago.

-Oh.

-And they have Taco Bell, KFC and Dunkin Donuts. It’s fantastic!

-Oh.*


-Watch out, they think Americans are barbaric.

-Why?

-Because we don’t eat apples with a fork and a knife.

-Oh.


She might have shared more advice with me but I stopped listening when she tried to explain how Chileans think ham is a vegetable. Thank you for sharing this invaluable advice, lady. What I got from it was that you’re a moron, and clearly should never have left the US.




*Okay, I am a little excited about Dunkin Donuts.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Parque General San Martín

The past few days I've been walking around Parque General San Martín. The park is huge. It has a tennis and golf club, as well as a general sports club. There is also a lake, a zoo and countless ornate statues and fountains.

The first day I went there by myself, I got a little lost. Shocking, I know. As I wandered about the park, I couldn't help but be a little disgusted. There was trash everywhere. And I mean, everywhere. I saw bags of trash hanging from trees. I even saw trash thrown inches from trash cans. It's disappointing. And gross. The park is visited by so many people in Mendoza. I would hope they'd take a little more care of it. But the point of my post wasn't to complain about all the trash, so I'll move on.

Anyway, I finally found the spot I was looking for. The lake. Man-made of course. Mendoza has the climate of a desert. Running along one side of the lake is a row of columns which support wooden beams. I've been told that in the summer, they are covered with different flowers. For now, there are just a few unidentifiable purple flowers. Sitting on the benches you have a perfect view of lake.

The first time I went there, I immediately regretted not bringing my camera. Not only was the scenery quite beautiful, but amid the flowers was a small black cat, playfully swatting at bumble bees. Of course I tried to encourage him to come down from the flowers and sit with me. But he ignored me and continued terrorizing the bees.

When I returned the next day to the park, camera in tow, I was shocked to find someone sitting on my bench. I had so been looking forward to going back to that same spot. It was the area with the most flowers. So I sat down a few benches away, and waited for them to leave. Luckily, about 10 minutes later they got up, and I quickly reclaimed my bench and began taking pictures.


It really is the perfect spot. With a clear view of the lake, you can watch people practicing rowing. There are also countless opportunities to people watch. While reading, I noticed that my little black cat friend was back. And before I could snap his picture up by the flowers, he jumped down and came over to me. He was clearly hungry, and unfortunately the only thing I had in my purse was a biscuit. He didn't mind though, and ate it anyway.


After he grew tired of the bread, he went off to stalk a bird.


Alas, the bird got away. Next time I go to the park I'll make sure to bring a can of tuna fish.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Let's go fly a kite

On Sunday we went to the park to fly a kite. Or at least attempt to. I quickly learned the phrase "no hay suficiente viento". Translation: There is not enough wind. Even if there had been ample wind I doubt our kite, with about 2 yards of string, would have gotten more than a few inches off the ground.

After many failed attempts of getting our kite in the sky, while enviously watching the two other park visitors with airborne kites, Verena and I decided we needed a new kite. We hoped that a new kite, with a sufficient amount of string, would fare better than a kite meant more for decoration than recreational use. Luckily for us, or more accurately, luckily for Lorenzo and Constanza, locals had taken up shop nearby selling plastic kites.

With a new kite, we once again tried to get it to fly. Despite the lack of wind we were successful, albeit momentarily, but successful nontheless.



As the hours passed, more and more people arrived at the park. With a now constant breeze the kids were able to not only get the kite up in the sky, but keep it there for quite some time. Others were equally as successful, the sky was now speckled with kites.


I spent a few minutes watching this little guy. He was so determined to get his kite up in the air. He kept running in semi circles, back and forth, but his kite wouldn't fly. Before he ran off to his mother in near hysterics, I snapped his picture.


It may be hard to see but he's wearing a shirt with the Walmart logo. Much to my despair, I learned that Walmarts are international and there is one in Mendoza. There's just no escaping that place.

At one point, a reporter from the local newspaper came to take pictures of the kids and their kites. I guess we were the most fantastic people he met at the park because he decided to use our picture for his story. Constanza is in the foreground of the picture, with Verena, me, Lorenzo, Jorge and Karina in the background.

I've never seen the movie Mary Poppins, but seeing how it's a Disney movie, of course I know all the songs. And "Let's Go Fly A Kite" has been stuck in my head all day. What's worse? I only know one verse, which is playing on repeat in my head as I write this post.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fiesta Patrias

Happy Chilean National day!

Today Chile is celebrating 200 years of independence. Anticipation has been building since September 1st as Chileans have counted down the days til the bicentennial. Some pretty elaborate festivities are set to take place all across Chile. Even the miners, trapped since August 5th, are said to be partaking by raising a Chilean flag.

It would have been pretty sweet to have been in Chile today. Oh well, there's always next year. I hear the parties will be pretty intense as they celebrate 201 years of independence.

And I would just like to take this time to personally thank those neighbors who deemed it necessary to light firecrackers when the clock struck midnight last night. The firecrackers may have only lasted a few minutes, but the barking dogs didn't shut up for almost an hour.


fiesta time

Yesterday was Contanza's birthday party. It was held at a club nearby their house. Here's a few pictures:



I loved that sign. Her name was spelled out in sprinkles. The theme of the party was Minnie Mouse. One of Karina's friends made chocolate lollipops for the goodie bags. Mickeys for the boys and Minnies for the girls.

These three people showed up to entertain the kids. They played music and had different props for the kids to play with. The only downside? They played Justin Beiber music.


Mi prima Verena.



The whole family! Jorge, Karina, Constanza and Lorenzo.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Obama?

In the beginning of August I went to the Chilean Consulate in NY with my mom. I needed to apply for my Chilean passport. My appointment was at 11am. Almost no one there spoke English and many of the employees were rude. My name wasn't called until sometime around 2pm without so much as an apology. They acted as if they were doing me a favor. A favor, mind you, I paid $120 for.

Yesterday I went to the Chilean Consulate in Mendoza. I was trying to have the delivery of my passport rerouted from NY to Mendoza, seeing how I'm living here now. Let's see. I wasn't required to make an appointment and I was seen after waiting for about 20 minutes. The man I was waiting to see spoke English and was wicked funny. Here are some snippets from our conversation:

-Are you in love?
-In love with what?
-Are you in love with anyone?
-No.
-Oh, I see. All you Americans come here trying to steal the Argentinian men.
-Sorry, I'll make sure to leave one for you.*


-So, who's going to help you with this? (rerouting my passport)
-I was hoping you would be able to.
-Obama?
-I'm sorry?
-Is he a good president?
-I think so.... I voted for him.
-Did you call him to see if he'll help you?
-I don't think he'll answer my phone call.

One other thing to note: Britney Spears was playing in his office. (The music, not the girl.)

He said he'll try to take care of my passport for me and he was really quite funny. Other conversation topics included 2012, religion, and New Zealand. I just sat there and laughed uncomfortably. The people working in the consulate in Mendoza were much nicer than those in NY. Maybe they're just happy to not be living in the US.



*Okay, I didn't actually say this part. But I was thinking it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Alfa-what?


The job interview was a bit of a bust. Not because I didn't talk about ducks, like Miss Liz suggested, but because they didn't actually have any positions available. I see...so the point of asking me to come in for an interview was what exactly??

Karina has five (!!) people who want to study English with me. I would be working with them in two groups. Both groups are beginners, and one group is focusing on the language associated with tourism. I love being in such high demand.

Constanza's seventh birthday was yesterday and her party is on Friday, right after school. We have been in party planning mode all week. Constanza has invited her entire class, about 30 kids (I can feel the headache coming on already). We are making almost everything for the party, with the exception of the pizza and the empanadas. Today we made the cake which was filled with peaches, whipped cream and dulce de leche. I'm not quite sure how I feel about that combination.

Also, with the help of the kids we made about 120 alfajores. An alfajor is basically two cookies with dulce de leche in the middle. The whole thing is then dipped or rolled in something equally as delicious. The alfajores we made were rolled in coconut. The kids decided the best method of making the alfajores was to do it assembly line style. This worked out quite well. That is, until they both got bored and I was left making the rest.




Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Ich bin Lorenzo"

I asked Lorenzo to write something, and this is what he wrote:

Sein
Ich bin
Du bist
Er,sie,es ist
Wir sind
Ihr seid
Sie sind

Haben
Ich habe
Du hast
Er,sie,es hat
Wir haben
Ihr habt
Sie haben

This has been your daily lesson in Alemán brought to you by Lorenzo. And for you non Spanish speakers, Alemán is German. Yes, that's right, a nine year old is teaching you German.

Just don't ask me what it means.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Carrefour

Today I went for a walk. I find it's the easiest way for me to figure out where things are. When we drive around I pay absolutely no attention to where we are. I'm always much more concerned with other cars on the road that come unsettlingly too close to us.

Many of you may know that I have a wonderful sense of direction. (How well does the sarcasm translate here?) I get lost going pretty much anywhere. In Mendoza, I have developed a certain level of familiarity with two streets. Guys, Mendoza is pretty huge. It's the fourth largest city in Argentina. So I'm pretty limited in where I can go only knowing two streets. I settled for walking to the giant grocery store, Carrefour, to have a look around.

Thankfully the walk was uneventful. I didn't fall into a drainage tunnel, or worse, step in dog poop. I was able to cross the street, without I hope, looking too much like a foreigner. And best of all, I didn't get lost.

Carrefour is massive. Especially massive when the other grocery stores nearby are the size of a broom closet. I wasn't looking for anything in particular so I settled on the soda aisle to buy some much needed CocaCola Light. Which, by the way, is far superior to Diet Coke. However, that is not the point of this post.

I couldn't help walk down the aisle with the sign for "galletas" because 3/4 of the shelves were displaying Oreos. It was incredible. There were no less than 15 different types of Oreos. Most of them were less than desirable. There were Oreos filled with meringue, others with a combination of dulce de leche and banana, and some that had three layers of varying colors.

I skipped on the Oreos and instead bought a box of granola bars and a tube of toothpaste. This along with my two bottles of CocaCola Light came to around 21 pesos. That's a little over 5 dollars. And Carrefour is one of the more expensive grocery stores.

As I left I unfortunately spotted a McDonalds. Those Golden Arches stick out like a sore thumb amid the countless cafes and panaderias. Even though the majority of their menu disgusts me, I'll go in anyway to see what oddities they sell. You can look forward to that on a future post.

In more exciting news, I have a job interview tomorrow! My direction skills will most definitely be put to the test. Even if I do get lost, it would at least make for a fun blog post. Stay tuned!


Sunday, September 12, 2010

a perilous journey downtown

I walked downtown with my cousin, Karina and her daughter, Constanza today. Constanza's birthday is next week and we needed some supplies for her party. Walking around here is like an extreme sport. Pedestrians definitely do not have the right of way. Cars only obey stop lights and a stop sign is merely a suggestion, not a requirement.

Mendoza is like an outdoor pound. There are street dogs everywhere which means there are many presents to be found all over the tiled sidewalks. I find myself constantly scanning the ground to avoid walking through anything unpleasant. To make things more fun the sidewalks are uneven and if you don't pay attention you might fall into an uncovered drainage tunnel or trip over an upturned tile.

With all the hazards of walking, one might suspect that taking a bus would be a safer option. Guess again. We are packed in like sardines. And just to makes things more complicated, when a passenger wants to get off, the door remains open for a good ten seconds after we have sped away. So now, not only are you trying to remain in an upright position, you need to make sure you don't fall out of the bus. This can be extremely trying for clumsy people like myself. Or perhaps it's only difficult for tourists. I seemed to be the only one remotely concerned with the open door.

I think I'll stick with walking. Dog poop is definitely better than falling off a bus.

photo shoot!






I just did a little photo shoot with my new buddy, Lorenzo. He's my 9 year old cousin and he helps me with my Spanish. Just in case I didn't feel inadequate enough, he is currently learning his third language. Spanish, English and now German. Pretty crazy.








This was his favorite from the photo shoot. I think it really brings out the best features in the both of us.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pirates

My 6 year old cousin, Constanza, decided to teach me Spanish. The first thing she taught me? El pirata esta comiendo tomate. Translation: The pirate is eating tomato. How adorable is that?

Friday, September 10, 2010

US vs. Latin airlines

After approximately 23 hours of traveling I finally made it to Argentina. I flew LANchile and the service does not even remotely compare to that on an American airline company. Let's do a little comparison, shall we?

Blankets:
On a trip home from California this summer, I overheard a passenger ask for a blanket. The flight attendant told her it would cost $7.00.
On LAN every seat had a blanket and pillow on it and 5 minutes after takeoff the flight attendants came by with free eyemasks for everyone. Free stuff, yes please!

Videos:

On this same trip home from California, on a 5 hour flight, they showed no movies. They didn't even have monitors...let alone those sporadically placed monitors that show you where your plane is on top of a map.
On LAN each seat had its own TV monitor. Yes, I know that some US flights have those as well. But this one had 46 movies (yes, I counted) and you could play video games. Beat that, US airline companies. Oh, give up now. You can't.

Food and Drink:

I'm pretty sure the last time I was served free food on a plane was in 1994. Peanuts disappeared from the friendly skies in 2000. I can only imagine that sodas will be gone by 2013. But, do no fear hungry travelers. Airplanes now come fully stocked with snacks that can be purchased at totally reasonable prices like the ever popular Cup of Noodles ($6.00) and Goldfish Crackers ($17.00 ea).
On my way to Argentina, I was served dinner FOR FREE. Once you're done closing your mouth I'll explain in further detail. We were even given options! Beef with potatoes or chicken and rice. Obviously I found neither of these appealing so I chose the rice. Besides the dead animals, we were given a salad, a roll with butter, and some chocolate dessert thing. Who cares that the stuff was inedible. It was free! And clearly some people liked it because my seat mate asked for another entree and was given one almost immediately. Now for the good part. In addition to complimentary soft drinks, coffee and tea, LAN serves everyone wine. For free. Red or white. With refills. Oh and they serve free breakfast as well.

Latin Men:
On US Flights: Maybe a few?
On LAN: About 3/4 of the plane.

So needless to say, LAN is the way to go.

On a total side note: Our plane had to do an emergency landing in Ecuador because a passenger was sick and needed a doctor. Does this mean I can count Ecuador as a country I've been to?? I mean, I did stay there for one hour....on the plane.
Yeah, I didn't think so.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

see you laters

A good friend of mine, who I'm going to miss terribly, told me "it's not goodbye, it's see you later."
Well this past month has been full of a whole lot of see you laters....college friends, grad school friends, coworkers, family.
Basically what it comes down to is that see you laters suck. 
But I know that my friends and family, although sad, are happy for me and are very supportive of the decision I chose to make.
Of course they are, otherwise I wouldn't like them so much.

I'll leave you with a quote from a singer who, in my lowly opinion, is only the greatest musician ever.

"Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes,
I'm afraid it's time for goodbye again."

Sorry Nicole, 'see you later' doesn't really fit. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

conversations about chile


Not to be a geography snob or anything but I'm pretty sure you could say the name of any country and I could tell you at the very least what continent it's on. But it's become all but too painfully clear that many people do not share my affinity for geography.

-"So I'm moving to Chile."
-"Where?"
-"Chile."
- Blank stare.
-"In South America..."
-Blank stare.
-"You know, it's the really long skinny country."
-"Oh! You mean Argentina."
-"Uh, no. Chile."

And I think my favorite conversation I've had with someone about moving to Chile is this fantastic gem:

-"So I'm moving to Chile."
-"Why?!?"
-"I want to go there to teach."
-"But, but you're going to have to live in a hut!"
-"Geez, I'm not moving to the Australian Bush."

I wish I was making this up.